Noah Baumbach follows up his joyous, more innately charming Frances Ha with amid-life crisis comedy starring Ben Stiller (good in the director's Greenberg), Naomi Watts (Insurgent, St. Vincent), Adam Driver (Lincoln, Inside Llewyn Davis), and Amanda Seyfried (Epic, Mamma Mia, and decent in the lesser seen indie Lovelace).
The director/writer may not hit the mark of profundity he's attained with perhaps more of a glib wit than his applauders expect from him. Here, an oddly charming, if fuzzy bromance develops through the hip and flattery with elements of ambition, subterfuge, ardor, and faculty in the lives of serious documentarian Josh (Stiller) and younger conceited, non-conformist Jamie (Driver, also more prominent from the series Girls). Nevertheless, he's simpatico with material that delves into the psychology of contentment.
Jamie and his artisanal ice-cream maker wife Darby (Seyfried) seem to be ideal to lift Josh and his distraught producer wife Cornelia (Watts) out of their early middle-age doldrums, which includes two miscarriages in their game approach to life. The odd contrast between the two couples is that Brooklyn-based Jamie and Darby have an affinity for VHS tapes and LP albums while their counterparts are into the modern amenities. A desperation is felt from Josh's standpoint under the sway of Jamie as demonstrated by donning a pork pie fedora.
Though Stiller can have inspired humorous moments around Josh's way around egotism, a lifelikeness churns from the comedic as Baumbach painstakingly, if rather effectively moves the high-concept through loquaciousness. Josh can be staid then keyed up as later spurious rascal Jamie tries to make some cinema verite of his own after his truthful bluenose, anxious paragon.
While We're Young may have the filmmakers' most relatable characters to date with Driver in sly, charismatic mode often a scene-stealer and Stiller getting some honest, effortless laughs from the stumbling blocks in his chosen profession. Watts and Seyfried aren't given the depth of their respective significant others, maybe just letting them have greater opportunity to shine (perhaps a product of the writing as Greta Gerwig collaborated so resonantly with Baumbach in Ha though the on-screen compatibility between Stiller and Watts is more relatable than what is apparent between Seyfried and Driver). The result is amusing and deceptively percipient, but not truly gratifying or delightful in perhaps what is at times a hazy assessment of our current functional hierarchy.
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